Kraft Dinner - Canada's National Dish

Millions of Munchers Can't be Wrong.

What is Canadian cuisine?  Is it poutine loaded with golden fries, and topped with melting curd cheese and gravy? Is is our sinfully sweet butter tarts that Americans can't get? 

Kraft Dinner BoxCredit: Cindy Crank

Tourtiere with flaky pastry? Or is it Canadian peameal bacon nestled between fried eggs? Nope, none of the above. The answer is often seen as good old Kraft Dinner, the  cheesey goodness that rattles in a box that Canadians buy to the tune of 1.7 million boxes annually out of 7 million sold worldwide.  

While Kraft Dinner may have started out as pasta and cheese powder in a box, today, in moving with the times, there are many varieties to choose from:

  • The original recipe with the bright orange powdered cheese.
  • The Deluxe version with the cheese in a pouch..fabulous!
  • The "Homestyle" form that is similar to the Deluxe version with the cheese in a pouch but with the addition of breadcrumbs for sprinkling on top. Now we're getting gourmet!
  • A microwave version for really fast meals on the go and a commercial microwave version that is sold to Burger King and Applebee's restaurants.
  • Kraft Dinner Smart is actually a sub line aimed at healthier eating with products that have the added goodness of vegetables, oats or flax seeds and no added colours, flavours of preservatives. Great way to get the wee ones to eat their veggies!

1980's Kraft Dinner Commercial

Where it All Began

One War, One Depression and an Elastic Band!

We can actually thank four things for the creation of this "for four in nine minutes" meal:

First of all the processing of processed cheese had to be perfected so that emulsifying salts helped to stabilize the product to give it a longer life. A man from Fort Erie Canada named James Lewis Kraft won one patent for processing cheese and in 1916, when living in Chicago, he started to build up his business. Next, the Great Depression created the need for a fast and filling food and finally, an innovative salesrep started to attach grated cheese to boxes of pasta with an elastic band and the meal in a box was bOld Kraft Dinner BoxCredit:

The Second World War also saw a need for an easy, fast meal when women were starting to work outside the home and meat and milk products were rationed.  In 1937 Kraft began selling the product in the USA and Canada and the macaroni with the fluorescent orange cheese was on its way to becoming a food and childhood icon for millions. The added bonus was the shelf life of 10 months which was a help to the homemaker with no refrigerator back in those days.


Canadians and Kraft Dinner...What's the Attraction?

If I Had $1000000
We wouldn't have to eat Kraft Dinner.
(But we would eat Kraft Dinner. Of course we would, we'd just eat more.
And buy really expensive ketchup with it.
That's right, all the fanciest Dijon Ketchup. Mmmmmm.)

If I Had $1000000 by The Bare Nakedladies, a song that spawned Kraft Dinner tossing at their concerts.

So, why do Canadians make a beeline for the Kraft Dinner boxes at the grocery store?  What is it about this pasta and cheese dish made right here in Canada at Mount Royal, Quebec that has us eating an average of 3.5 boxes a year which is about 55% more than our southern neighbours? One journalist says that Kraft Dinner makes us feel,"Deeply Situating" which I think translates into comfort food that reminds us of home. Perhaps others think fondly of it as the first meal thay could actually cook on their own, often as college students far from home. Immigrants have also been asked what they think of as a true Canadian dish and their answer is Kraft Dinner....perhaps sad but true!

Canadians have bonded with Kraft Dinner the way the Brits have bonded with baked beans and fish and chips (not necessarily together) and the Aussies have taken a nationalistic shine to Vegemite or Marmite. Others say that Canadians just can't get enough of our four favourite food groups: salt, fat, starch and sugar.  Then throw in another Canadian favourite called cheese and you're good to go. And, for those in a hurry it's truly dinner in a flash...heck, forget the plate..just eat it out of the pot on the spot.

While we often shorten Kraft Dinner to KD in Canada, in the USA and Australia, Kraft Dinner is known as Kraft Mac and Cheese while the Brits have given it the moniker Cheesey Pasta. However, no matter what you call it, and even if you call it awful, there are ways to make this humble dish into something a little more upscale and gourmet. You are only limited by your imagination and what the kitchen cupboard has in store.

A Bit of Everything for Canadian Cooks!

The Ultimate Pasta Lover's Gift

Three Ways to go Gourmet with KD!

From Surf to Turf!

Impress your friends and add a little zing to your family dinner tonight with these easy as pie additions to make your Kraft Dinner a winner. In fact, Kraft Dinner can be re-created into almost anything with just a few additions and creativity: meatballs, ham, salsa sauce, bacon, extra grated cheese and, of course, we can't forget good old ketchup!

Seafood Delight

  • Grab a 6 ounce can of tuna (the chunky kind)
  • Chop up 1 celery stalk into slices
  • Toss in a dash of Italian seasining (or more to taste)
  • Open and pour in 1 can (10-1/2 oz.) condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas

The Man Meal

  • If you've got some leftover hotdogs or some pepperoni, slice up about 1 cup.
  • Grab 1 medium green pepper and chop it up
  • Chop up 2 cups of tomatoes

Burger Delight

  • Brown 1 pound of hamburger
  • Add Taco sauce seasoning
  • Add 1 15 ounce can of tomatoes
  • Add 1 cup of sliced mushrooms

 Kraft Dinner with Tomato WedgesCredit: By Matt MacGillivray from Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons Another way to make any of the above recipes extra special is to add a layer of breadcrumbs to them and pop them in the oven in a casserole dish at 375 degrees until they are golden brown.

Extra cheese? Sure, why not! Spoon your creation into an overproof casserole, grate cheese over top and broil  for a few minutes until the cheese is golden and gooey.  But keep an eye on it while it is don't want to burn your culinary masterpiece.

If you want to add another element of a healthy meal to your meal, toss up a salad and you're good to go! After all millions of Canadians can't be wrong!